MIGHTY PEKING MAN directed by Meng-Hwa Ho

Film / Video Reviews
MIGHTY PEKING MAN directed by Meng-Hwa Ho
May 23, 2000, 06:28

MIGHTY PEKING MAN directed by Meng-Hwa Ho; Miramax, 1974

Straight out of 1974 Hong Kong comes the re-release of Mighty Peking Man. Taking its cue from Valley of the Gwangi, Godzilla, and King Kong and peppered with the conventions of B-movie melodramas and safari films, Mighty Peking Man becomes a bizarre exercise in genre tectonics. Saturday matinee genre after genre crash into each other at breakneck speeds. Around every corner are rampaging elephants, gap-toothed hucksters, Himalayan monster monkeys, syrupy string arrangements, dated but beautiful special effects, horrible dubbing, evil-hearted city folk, pools of quicksand, on-the-make TV producers and typhoons. Mighty Peking Man is a giant gorilla who has raised Samantha, our bikini-clad heroine, after a plane wreck stranded her in the jungle as a wee lass. The two are discovered by playboy and explorer Johnny, who convinces them to come to Hong Kong so the world can get a gander at our simian friend. It goes bad fast. Peking Man and Samantha are exploited and betrayed even before they get a taste of the high life. Peking Man eventually goes ape when Samantha (who refuses to wear anything but her tattered bikini) gets manhandled by a lecherous promoter. Bullets fly and explosions abound as a terrified Hong Kong tries to fell the beast.

As silly as it all sounds (and is), the film's endless finale is cast in a thick layer of sadness. The sense of loss felt by Peking Man and Samantha resonates deeply in a way the films which inspired Mighty Peking Man don't often achieve. Granted, the original Godzilla films are injected with a post-nuclear creepiness, but in those films the real villain is the faceless war machine that unleashed a nuclear tragedy. Mighty Peking Man exhibits a more full-blown '70s cynicism toward humanity. Samantha and Peking Man are not only warding off the bullets of Hong Kong's military, they've been victim to everyone they've met along the way, people tainted by varying degrees of greed, selfishness, and indifference-each one playing a part in our heroes' tragic end.

-Danny Plotnick

Filed Under: Film-DVD-VideoFilm-DVD-Video Reviews

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